Against Me! laughs at danger and breaks all the rules

Against Me! has come a long way since its inception as a one-piece anarcho-punk band in Gainesville, Florida back in the ‘90s. Six studio albums and a few lineup changes later, they’re still going strong and coming to St. Andrew’s Hall with supporting acts Tony Molina and Big Eyes, on May 11 in support of their latest album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.”

The road to getting “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” out was a bumpy one. Released in January, it was in the works for quite some time. Written by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, before coming out as transgender, it was described as a concept album about a transgender prostitute, but later turning out to be a bit more autobiographical than that. During the beginning stages of the album, longtime Against Me! bass player Andrew Seward left the band, and so did their drummer, Jay Weinberg, causing them to leave their spot on tour with Bad Religion.

The band kept on keeping on, though. The album was recorded with Grace on vocals, guitar, and bass, and James Bowman on guitar and backup vocals, with NOFX’s Fat Mike filling in on bass, and Angels and Airwaves alum Atom Willard on drums, and released on Total Treble Records, the band’s own label, despite a tree falling on the roof of their studio.

Prior to the release of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the band offered a free digital download of the “True Trans EP” on their website last July, which included acoustic versions of “FUCKMYLIFE666” and “True Trans Soul Rebel.”

“This is definitely a true band-only from start to finish operation. And the fact that Laura produced it also had a lot to do with the way that it sounds, and the songs that are picked, and all that kind of stuff,” says Willard. “So it’s very much representative of what the band is, how the band sounds, and how the band wants to present itself.”

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Caroline Smith bares it all

2Minnesota-born Caroline Smith’s latest release, her first solo record Half About Being a Woman is quite a bit different than her previous records with the folk outfit Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps. She’ll be coming to Ferndale’s Magic Bag on 4/12 along with Detroit natives Seven Birds One Stone and El Dee.

Half About Being a Woman, released this past October, is a feel-good record with a soulful vibe, inspired by the ’90s rhythm and blues. Though she started in the folk scene with the Good Night Sleeps, she feels as if this sound is her to a T. She wanted to record an album that she would listen to, even if it weren’t hers.

“What resonated with me most were women with really strong voices,” Smith says, either the voices themselves or the messages they’re singing about. “Mariah Carey, Natalie Merchant, Carole King, Whitney Houston.” She’s inspired by many of the women she grew up listening to with her mother.

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Christina Perri: Only Human

Christina-Perri-Pub-1-Yu-Tsai-High-Res1Christina Perri has come a long way since she packed up her suitcase and guitar and left her hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in pursuit of a music career in Los Angeles. Her second record, “Head or Heart,” featuring her latest single, “Human,” is due out on 4/1. She’s embarking on a headlining tour with a stop at the Majestic Theater on 4/11.

Creativity has always been in Perri’s blood. She was singing at three years old, and writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She wrote her first song at 15, “As an emo 15-year old I didn’t know how to handle everything, so I wrote about it,” she says. She’s written hundreds of songs since, most of which nobody will ever hear, but Perri is still always writing.

Her dream wasn’t always to become a musician, though. “I was always way too shy,” says Perri. “I wanted to write songs for other people.” One day she decided that she just had to go for it, despite her fears and insecurities, when she was pulled out of her waitressing job like Cinderella. After that, her music career took off very quickly.

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Riding faster with Paulina Jayne

PaulinaScope_1The amount of things on the average high school senior’s plate can be overwhelming. Figuring out college plans and final exams, not to mention the prom details like dresses and dates, can send any 18-year-old into a frenzy. Paulina Jayne, however, seems to be balancing all of that and a developing music career with plenty of grace.

The up and coming Detroit country artist will be playing at her favorite metro Detroit venue, St. Andrew’s Hall on 3/29 with Annabelle Road and Matt Austin for the first show of Live Nation’s Faster Horses Series.

“I love the staff, I love the stage, I love the crowd,” Jayne says. “Everybody is just hyped and extremely excited.” She’s had a good time every time she’s been to St. Andrew’s, whether it’s been performing herself, or seeing Kacey Musgraves or her favorite band, Blackberry Smoke.

Jayne has been writing music since she was a young kid. She started taking piano lessons and quickly learned to experiment with notes and chords. The first songs she wrote were classical, and she slowly began delving into other genres until country and the “good ol’ three chords” really stuck with her. “I love the genre,” she says. “It’s where my heart is.”

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Clap your hands with Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

There aren’t many bands as dedicated to touring as Brown County, Indiana’s The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Averaging more than 250 shows a year, they’re making a stop at the Magic Bag on 3/15 on their Big Damn Blues Revolution Tour with Dom Flemons of Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Dexter Romweber Duo. Despite their exhaustive schedule, the Big Damn Band takes pride in their energetic, passionate performances.

“It’s going to be a very special show, very unique,” said the Reverend J. Peyton of the Magic Bag show. We can expect some new songs from The Big Damn Band, some collaboration with the openers onstage, and of course, lots of dancing and hand clapping.

The country blues trio isn’t what came out of your grandpa’s record player. The Big Damn Band is known for their eclectic mix of nontraditional instruments. The Reverend J. Peyton is on guitar and vocals, using a National steel bodied guitar, an acoustic and a three-string cigar box guitar onstage. His wife, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton plays, well, a washboard. She’s crafted gloves with thimbles attached to the fingers, sometimes resulting in her literally setting the washboard on fire while playing. Ben “Bird Dog” Bussell plays a drum kit that includes a five-gallon plastic bucket with drum hardware.

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The Witches cast at the Magic Bag

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There is a Detroit urban legend of a small red dwarf, called the Nain Rouge, who lurks around the city, only to be seen when there’s misfortune in the midst. Known as the “harbinger of doom,” the Nain Rouge was the first topic of conversation in our talk with Troy Gregory, the singer and founder of The Witches.

The Witches will be headlining a show on 2/28 at the Magic Bag with Mexican Knives and Pretty Ghouls. Contrary to popular belief, The Witches are not “back from the dead,” because they never died.

“The Witches has been my main deal since about ’95 or ’96,” says Gregory. “It’s just been a little difficult to keep up. The Witches never broke up.” This show is the band’s kick back in to the Detroit music scene.

Though all of the members of The Witches are involved in other projects, it hasn’t stopped them from releasing four records and a compilation album, entitled A Haunted Person’s Guide to The Witches, in 2011. The current “coven” consists of Gregory on vocals, a couple of his former students from the St. Clair School of Rock, Craig Adams and Peter Geloso on guitar, Stefan Carr on bass, Mary Alice on keyboard, and Evan Hakim on drums. Eugene Strobe, a veteran Witch, will be on drums for the Magic Bag show.

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The Muggs go full tilt at the Magic Bag

TheMuggs3_photo_credit_Maggie_BouchardLove is in the air in metro Detroit, just in time for the Valentine’s Day Massacre at Ferndale’s Magic Bag on Saturday, 2/15. On deck for the night are, The Muggs, Amy Gore & Her Valentines, The Hatchetmen and Audra Kubat. Massacre headliners, blues-rock trio, The Muggs, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Danny Methric, bassist Tony DeNardo and drummer Todd Glass, caught up with us to discuss the upcoming show and some projects to look forward to.

“It’s our first time in a couple years playing at the Magic Bag,” says Methric. “So we’re really excited.”

All of the bands on the bill have shared the stage with The Muggs at some point in their 14-year career, and they’re always glad to play shows with friends.

“Audra is one of my all time favorites in this town,” says DeNardo. “Any excuse to get her on the bill is special. She is the Judy Collins of Detroit.”

It’s not just Detroit musicians that The Muggs are faithful to, but metro Detroit venues as well. They’ve toured through the United States and Europe, playing plenty of festivals, and even placed in the top 10 on FOX’s short lived “The Next Great American Band” in 2007. But the Muggs always enjoy coming back to Detroit. They’ve played Arts, Beats and Eats and Winter Blast in the past, and they’ve made regular appearances at the Magic Stick, PJ’s Lager House, and they’re looking forward to playing at Ferndale’s The Loving Touch. The Mugg’s 2013 live album, Full Tilt was even recorded at the Cadieux Café, the place that DeNardo refers to as “The Muggs’ heart and soul.”

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